KOEN THEYS (°1963. Brussels, Belgium.) was one of the first artists in Belgium to artistically exploit the medium of video in the early 1980s. Productions such as the ambitious video work Diana (1984) and the interpretation of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring der Nibelungen (1984-1989) caused his international breakthrough.
One of Theys’ recurrent practices is to deconstruct art history’s great traditions and icons of our western culture and linking them to contemporary issues. He uses artistic methods like displacement, doubling, morphing… to visually manipulate certain well-known western icons or symbols to the point where they seem to be turning against themselves.
Identity in all its forms is one of the artist’s greatest focus. How people present themselves, what they choose to identify with, how (political) group-identities take over and function as a misguiding safe-haven, how the image of one’s self is the drive behind all ambition… and how all this can be very easily lost.
In his latest work, Diasporalia, which was commissioned by the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp for the Year of the Baroque 2018, Theys thinks about the current refugee crisis. 12 unique refugee beds, complete with personal belongings, made entirely out of bronze.
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The sleeping refugees are missing from the scene, and it’s through their absence that we unavoidably reflect upon their identities. We only have the little remnants of a life in transit and our own imagination and empathy to imagine the personalities, feelings and struggles behind them.
Theys’ work has been shown all over the world and is part of public collections such as MOMA in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Nouveau Musée in Villeurbanne, the S.M.A.K. in Ghent, the M HKA in Antwerp, the Museum of Modern Art in Brussels, Le Casino in Luxembourg, … and many others.
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